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Bifurcating enterprise storage

The enterprise storage market is splitting into two areas that are still indistinct but will become a lot less so. It’s important to understand this evolution if you are to make sense of storage vendor product strategy.

Before explaining this tectonic motion, it is necessary to define what I mean by enterprise storage.

When I talk about enterprise storage, I mean storage systems used for enterprises that traditionally have had their own data centers and have certain expectations about storage capabilities and characteristics. This segment includes two dynamics. One is the current operations and critical business applications that must continue without interruption while meeting increasing demands. The other is a transition to IT as a Service methodologies with private cloud implementations.

The traditional IT environment has relied on storage systems to provide resiliency and data protection.  And as requirements for availability and business continuity have increased over time, high value capabilities have been designed into storage systems.  This has made systems more sophisticated (also more complicated) and more expensive.  The capabilities are enumerated in product data sheets.

Private cloud deployments mimic the approaches used in public clouds where storage is more of a commodity and functionality is added in the software for the application level. This means the resiliency and availability does not depend on the underlying storage system, but must be developed into the application or software where it executes.

This second segment leads to opportunity for people designing storage systems. The opportunity is to provide storage platforms for this market that are different than the more sophisticated systems required to meet traditional IT demands. These systems can be as simple as enclosures with devices and control hardware with functionality that routes access.

While private clouds do not eliminate the need for sophisticated storage systems, they represent a set of revolving requirements and product offerings. This is where the “land grab” is on for storage vendors to establish market share. The change presents an opportunity for new storage vendors that can meet the cost and margin demands to enter the market, and allows storage consumers to buy storage that better fits their changing needs.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).